AuthorMcNutt, Donald James
AdvisorDryden, Edgar A.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractCities, Homes, and Other Ruins in American Literature, 1790-1860 reexamines the ethos of national progress by analyzing how canonical and non-canonical writers refashion images of ruins from European aesthetics to cast the American city as a site of cultural instability. The study highlights the transatlantic currency of concepts associated with ruins and shows how a nation celebrating its birth negotiated powerful ideas about collapsed empires and destroyed cities. As signs of mutability and impermanence, ruins became resonant figures as American writers interpreted cultural instabilities evident in the nation's expanding cities. "Cities" analyzes how American writers employ ruin imagery to treat subjects as diverse as Anglo-Indian relations in the nation's early capital; the dialogue among political secrecy, urban theatricality, and yellow fever in 1790s Philadelphia; the impact of antebellum penitentiaries on conceptions of mind and domestic space; and the mutability of nationhood in the decade before the Civil War. The study demonstrates through interdisciplinary analyses of architecture and material culture how figures of ruin work to disclose a culture's inner dimensions, revealing the internal operations of specific phenomena in early America, including the meanings of law and citizenship, as well as perceptions of race. In literature of the American city, images of ruin provide revelatory views into the normally hidden components of a people's habitas. To argue this, the study explicates patterns of unstable urban settings; these indicate how American writers translate ruin imagery into their art. "Cities" close reads these patterns alongside archival materials to reveal how Philip Freneau, Charles Brockden Brown, Poe, and Melville represent the city as a specific kind of artifice that generates certain meanings, hides others, and continually unsettles the ideas of progress ascribed to American landscapes. To indicate how ruin imagery interpenetrates with the forms of representation that shaped the cities of the early United States, "Cities" synthesizes theories on law, geography, and architecture from the works of Lewis Mumford, Walter Benjamin, and Michel Foucault.
Degree ProgramGraduate College